NBC TODAY Show spotlight on Girls With Sole

Girls With Sole is overwhelmed with gratitude to the Today Show – for doing such an amazing piece on our organization ~ as well as ~ for the outpouring of kindness that has already resulted from it! Thank you to everyone for the kind words and the generous support you have given! Girls With Sole programming changes the lives of girls, and it’s with your compassion and support that we will continue to move forward and grow!! If you missed the show this morning…watch it here!!

SELF Magazine’s Women Doing Good

Liz Ferro has been chosen as one of the seventh annual SELF’s Women Doing Good honorees! We are deeply humbled and grateful. The $5,000.00 donation from SELF, and exposure in their amazing magazine, will be extremely helpful in furthering our reach!


Family Circle Magazine features Girls With Sole in June 2014 issue

FamilyCirclearticleGirls With Sole is proud to be recognized in the June 2014 issue of Family Circle Magazine.  Girls With Sole provides the tools to empower, and we are truly grateful to Family Circle for helping us create awareness for our fabulous programs, and our amazing girls!

Girls With Sole article featured in Huffington Post Blog


Girls With Sole

Nonprofit to empower girls through fitness and wellness

Sports and Fitness: A Source of Empowerment for At-Risk Girls

Posted: 05/07/2013 11:10 am

By founder Liz Ferro

In many different ways, and on many different levels, my life has revolved around running. For a time all I could do was try to run away. Then I ran into trouble. As time passed, with hard work, endurance and tenacity, I ran with the idea of helping girls in need and haven’t stopped since.

In August of 2009 I founded the nonprofit organization, Girls With Sole, which uses free fitness and wellness programs to empower the minds, bodies and souls of at-risk girls and those who have experienced any type of abuse. Turning a negative into a positive, I have made it my life’s mission to instill strength, self-confidence, and pride in girls, and to help them embrace running (and other sports) — for all the right reasons. Our programs include traditional team sports, running, yoga, dance and self-esteem building exercises, as well as nutritional support, free running shoes, sports bras, water bottles, fitness journals, and entry into 5K races and other events.

I lived in four different foster homes before I was adopted at the age of two. When I was eight years old I was sexually abused by my next door neighbor.

Because I did not receive any help or support when I was abused as a child it became necessary for me to seek out and find an outlet and a healing strength on my own. I found it in sports. I found a special, almost magical, bliss in movement. Pulling my body through water, pumping my legs on a bike, or running anywhere and everywhere equated to pleasure, and seeing how far I could go tapped into a primal thrill.

The at-risk communities and kids in the system (foster or juvenile justice) have very little, if any, access to fitness programs of any kind, and therefore might never make the mind/body/soul connection that I made as a child. Girls With Sole shows them that there is a way out of the darkness, and each of them can find her way out without drugs, alcohol, or self-harm.

So often I see (and hear) myself in my Girls With Sole participants and can empathize with their fears and worries, because I felt the same at their ages. In the same way that I did, they see themselves on the perimeter of the “real world” like unwelcome visitors, fearing the way they will be perceived by others, and how their behavior will affect the outcome of their lives. In Girls With Sole the girls are a team and they experience a sense of purpose and belonging that is often lacking in their lives. They are in a safe and accepting environment where negative voices in their heads are quieted, and the positive and encouraging voices get louder with each new achievement. They may not like every activity, or be the best at it, but they learn to try and to keep moving forward.

Being an athlete teaches you to get up when you fall, and to be resilient in times of pain or adversity. It’s incredible to witness how quickly the girls respond to the programs in such a positive way — even those who walk into the room in the worst moods, proclaiming they will not participate. Within 20 to 30 minutes those same girls are running, dancing, or playing basketball or volleyball. They’re laughing and smiling, and having a great time being kids, which is really what it’s all about.

Fitness and wellness may not be on their radar at the start, but to see the progression as the girls begin to believe in themselves, reach their goals, and cross the finish lines as a result of Girls With Sole is truly incredible.

Girls With Sole is a game changer for many girls. Together they become healthy, strong, well-rounded young women and leaders who are ready to overcome obstacles and “Lace Up for a Lifetime of Achievement.”



The Morning Journal covers Girls With Sole Programs in Lorain

Yoga, dance workouts help Girls with Sole participants prepare for 5K race

Published: Monday, May 06, 2013

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL The Girls with Sole do yoga and dance Zumba and do other fun exercises each week for the 12 week program.

ELYRIA — Local girls are making friends, gaining confidence and gearing up for a 5K race after participating in the Girls with Sole program.

Girls with Sole is a 12-week wellness and fitness program designed to empower the minds, bodies and souls of pre-teen and teenaged girls who are at-risk or have experienced abuse of any kind. The goal of the program is to raise the confidence and self-esteem levels of girls to help them to reach their fullest potential.

The girls participating in the one-hour fitness sessions run, play volleyball, do yoga, dance Zumba and do other fun exercises to prepare for the upcoming Girls with Sole “LULA” 5K race June 9 at Beachcliff Market Square in Rocky River.

“The 5K race really just gives the girls a finish line for all the hard work they have put forth through the program,” said Liz Ferro, founder of Girls with Sole. “The lessons, confidence, and friendships built, however, last a lot longer than that finish line.”

The Girls with Sole Program is currently being featured at Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs around Lorain County. The program offers girls the chance to be active while developing the physical and emotional strength needed to achieve personal goals.

“Girls with Sole is fun. We get to do a lot of cool things and you don’t even realize you are working out,” said Jada Stephens, of Franklin Elementary School in Elyria.

Ferro is currently helping girls at the Elyria Boys and Girls Club have fun and get moving in preparation for the June 5 race.

“The majority of the girls did not know each other and were not physically active before participating in the program,” Ferro said. “Now the girls have more energy, are more focused, and have grown to be very accepting of each other.”

The girls participating in the exercise session come from various elementary schools around the county and range in age from 9 to 12 years old.

According to Ray Armstrong, director for the Elyria Boys and Girls Club, the response from the girls has been overwhelming, with many of them grateful and wishing the program lasted longer.

“My favorite thing about the program is that we get to let out our real selves,” Girls with Sole participant Ala-jeiah Milton said.

According to Ferro, the sessions are showing the girls that fitness can be an outlet to relieve some of the struggles girls face today.

Ferro, a victim and survivor of foster care and child abuse, stated that she used fitness and athletics as a way of gaining confidence, self-esteem and inner strength through her own difficult times.

“I wish there was a program like Girls with Sole when I was younger to get me through tough times,” Ferro said. “Girls with Sole is my way of giving back. I’m just trying to show girls everywhere that we are a team, we are strong, and we don’t have to face life’s struggles alone.”

Ferro is an author, recipient of the 2012 Longines Women who Make a Difference Award, and a competitive triathlete working toward inspiring girls everywhere to find their inner strength in the face of adversity.

“Girls in Lorain County are very lucky to have Liz Ferro as an inspirational leader,” said Kathleen Kern, associate director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health who helped bring Girls with Sole to Lorain County. “She is nationally recognized and is a great role model for the girls.”

One of the most fascinating aspects about Girls with Sole is the collaborative effort that has occurred locally to bring the program to Lorain County. The Medical Mutual Foundation of Ohio and the Lorain County Board of Mental Health have partnered to fund the staff necessary to hold the program and registration for the girls to participate in 5K races.

The Community Foundation of Lorain County provided the girls with sports bras needed for group participation while running shoes were provided by Lori Campana. Bellefaire JCB and Guidestone mental health clinicians also offered support to the girls participating in the program.

“When there was a gap needing to be filled, someone was always willing to step up to make this program possible,” Kern said. “Our goal is to continue to collaborate so that we can keep inspiring young women to set goals and achieve them.”

For more information about the Girls with Sole Program, call Liz Ferro at 668-1509 or visit www.girlswithsole.org.





Crain’s Cleveland Business features Girls With Sole as: WHO TO WATCH: NONPROFITS


LIZ FERRO: Founder, Girls With Sole



April 22, 2013

Liz Ferro knows how devastating abuse can be to a young woman — but she also knows how empowering athletics can be.

So much so, in fact, that Ms. Ferro credits athletics with her own survival.

Ms. Ferro, who was in the foster system and later adopted, said the experience of being sexually abused by a nonfamily member as a child ultimately led her to create Girls With Sole, a fitness and wellness program for at-risk young women, ages 9 to 18.

“I just don’t want any girl to feel like they’re worthless or like their life isn’t going to go anywhere,” she said.

Ms. Ferro had worked as the executive director of Westlake-based Wigs for Kids before she decided to combine her passion for fitness with her passion for helping young adults.

She founded the Girls With Sole program in August 2009, and she estimates about 550 young women have taken part since.

The program consists of participation in and exposure to a wide variety of sports, from football and yoga to running, as well as self-esteem building activities. It is for young women who have experienced or are at risk for any type of abuse, from sexual abuse to bullying.

Currently, Girls With Sole hosts six weekly groups in Northeast Ohio. Ms. Ferro does get help from volunteers, but she is the only one dedicated to the effort full-time.

Bobby Taylor, director of operations at the Boys & Girls Club of Lorain County, said the participants look forward to the meetings. Ms. Ferro helps build their self-esteem, he said, and she creates an environment where “it’s OK to try.”

“The girls really gravitate to the energy that Liz brings,” Mr. Taylor said.

Rocky Melendez, the youth and recreation coordinator at the Merrick House in Cleveland, called the program “invaluable” and said it helps empower the young women and gives them confidence.

As for the future, Ms. Ferro, a runner, triathlete and married mother of two, said she eventually would like to earn a salary and hire a small staff.

She also hopes to by 2020 spread the Girls With Sole program nationally. Ms. Ferro said a lack of funding is the group’s biggest obstacle to expansion — it’s hard to hire people to run chapters without money for salaries — so she has been fundraising and looking into available grant funding. She also plans to encourage interested volunteers to hold fundraising runs.

Ms. Ferro said there’s often a lot of eye-rolling at the start of the program, but she’s had breakthroughs, too. Indeed, some girls tell her the program changed their lives and some choose to come back to Girls With Sole even after they’ve left residential treatment or a juvenile detention center. Ms. Ferro said she’s always shocked when the young women choose to come to the program after they no longer are required to attend.

As for the curriculum that Ms. Ferro created, she said she tries to ensure that there is something for everyone, which includes the focus on self-esteem.

“They find their way to feel good,” Ms. Ferro said.